How Plea Bargaining Works In A Murder Trial

There are two main reasons why a murder investigation ends up in a trial.

The primary reason is that the accused person is not guilty and they’ve made it clear that they’re not guilty. In those situations, certainly, no ethical lawyer would advise the client to plead guilty to something that they haven’t done. The second reason that a murder case ends up in a trial is that there is no incentive for a person to plead guilty to first degree murder. As a result, that rarely, if ever, happens. If you have a client who is charged with first degree murder, and the Crown is unwilling to accept any lower type of offer, then you have nothing to gain by any kind of plea bargain because the sentence for first degree murder is automatic. In those two situations, you either have a minimal amount of plea bargaining or really none at all.

In just about every other scenario, it is common to have at least ongoing and even significant discussions with the Crown. There are many examples of murder cases that were resolved by manslaughter pleas, and there are number of first degree murder charges that could, by way of pleas, be reduced to second degree murder and a much lower period of parole ineligibility. Many people who are charged with murder would be more than happy to accept a plea to manslaughter and there are some situations where the Crown is happy as well to accept a plea to manslaughter when a person has been charged with murder. They may have unsavory witnesses themselves. They may have some issues with the evidence and frankly, as everyone who has ever done a case knows, you just never know how it’s going to end up. No matter how strong you think your case is, you still might not get the result you’re expecting. A lawyer might take some kind of compromise if it creates some certainty of a lesser sentence for his or her client.

There isn’t a hard and fast rule about who initiates the plea bargain. It depends on the case, and it also depends on the jurisdiction and the lawyer’s relationship with the prosecutors. In every murder case, there are a number of opportunities to get together and discuss the way the case might go. Judges are often very interested in trying to push for plea bargains in order to keep the dockets as clear as they can, and keep delays in the court system to a minimum.

If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Toronto,Ontario Region, contact Adler Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman for a consultation.

This information is taken from an interview from , September 11, 2008 with Boris Bytensky, Criminal Lawyer with Alder Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman, a Toronto Criminal Defence Law Firm. The article is provided as an information service only and should not be used as legal advice. Laws vary by jurisdiction so please consult with an appropriate legal professional if you are looking for help with a specific situation.